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The top Seacoast NH news stories from 2015

Between blizzards, presidential candidate visits, and an ongoing opioid crisis, the Seacoast had a lot to talk about in 2015. Here’s a look back at some of the biggest local news stories that came up in the Year of the Sheep.


The year began with a kickoff event that marked the beginning of construction on the new Sarah Mildred Long Bridge between Maine and New Hampshire. The $170 million project will close the bridge for six to nine months in 2016.

Gov. Maggie Hassan planned to implement new rules to allow police officers to administer Narcan, an emergency treatment for heroin and opioid overdoses. The opioid epidemic continued to be a major problem throughout the region in 2015 — in December, N.H. attorney general Joseph Foster told legislators the state could see more than 400 drug overdose deaths by the end of the year.


Winter weather vexed Seacoast residents in January and February. A string of weekly snowstorms, each dumping between 15 and 30 inches of snow on the region, began at the end of January. By mid-February, many towns had seen much of their yearly snow removal budgets severely depleted, and the accumulated snowfall caused a number of roof collapses.

In Dover, city councilors approved plans for a tax increment financing district for the city’s waterfront in the hopes of attracting new developers to the site.


In Portsmouth, city councilors debated — and ultimately tabled — an ordinance that would have banned stores from using “single-use carryout plastic bags.”

COAST, the regional bus service, announced it would be ending a bus route that connected six Seacoast communities due to a lack of funding. The route was ultimately saved, though it has been modified and makes fewer stops.

In Somersworth, city councilors authorized city manager Bob Belmore to take the first steps toward a project that would bring a solar energy project to the city’s former landfill. Exeter’s zoning board approved plans for Seacoast Family Promise to open a day center for homeless families at 27 Hampton Road; abutters in the neighborhood challenged the decision in court, and in December, a Rockingham Superior Court judge ruled in the zoning board’s favor.


In Dover, the city continued work on its massive Silver Street reconstruction project, and for much of the year, the busy road was a one-way street.

About 80 people gathered for a community forum on heroin and opioid addiction at The Music Hall Loft this month, less than a week after the city marked its second heroin overdose death of 2015.


Much rejoicing followed a Portsmouth City Council vote to approve bonding for a new $23.2 million, 600-space parking garage at 165 Deer St. And the city attracted national attention as it celebrated the opening of the African Burying Ground Memorial.

A Federal Elections Commission ruling found that U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta illegally accepted $355,000 in donations from his parents during his 2010 campaign.

In Exeter, excitement over a developer’s plans to turn the long-empty Ioka Theater into a brewpub was short-lived, as the developer rescinded its offer.


At the State House, lawmakers passed a bill that would have required voters to live in the state for 30 consecutive days before they could vote in elections. It was one of more than a dozen bills related to elections and voter registration that went through Concord in 2015, with a presidential election on the horizon. Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed the bill soon after.

The Somersworth Youth Safe Haven program ended its 15 years of operation after coordinator Betty Eaton retired.

A few days after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage across the country, Portsmouth held its first Pride parade.


The month began with a state budget stalemate. Talks between Gov. Maggie Hassan and Republican legislators broke down in June, when Hassan vetoed the budget passed by the Legislature. Instead of a new budget taking effect on July 1, a six-month continuing resolution funded state services as Hassan and legislators went back to the negotiating table.

In Portsmouth, the Prescott Park Arts Festival became a hot topic at city council meetings as some South End residents complained that the park’s programming was too noisy. Festival supporters worried that a small minority might limit the festival’s offerings — and the city’s cultural vibrancy.

In Dover, city officials approved plans for a new $86 million combined high school and career technical center.


In locations throughout the state, including Hampton Beach, “Free the Nipple” protests drew attention to what protestors said are outdated laws and attitudes about public female toplessness.

Somersworth city councilors passed an anti-panhandling ordinance, and, later Rochester officials passed a similar measure.

In Portsmouth, a group began lobbying efforts to establish a ferry service between Portsmouth and Provincetown, Mass. And a judge ruled that former Portsmouth police officer Aaron Goodwin would not receive a nearly $2.7 million inheritance from the estate of Geraldine Webber. The case prompted calls for reform in the city’s police department.

Dover filed a lawsuit against the state, alleging that a New Hampshire law effectively shortchanged the city nearly $14 million in education funding since 2008.


State lawmakers reached a budget deal after months of negotiations.

Portsmouth police chief Stephan DuBois announced his resignation on Sept. 28. U.S. Air Force officials agreed to treat three wells at Pease International Tradeport that are contaminated with perflourochemicals (PFCs). And Portsmouth officials passed an ordinance that allowed Uber and other ride-sharing services to operate in the city so long as drivers provide proof of insurance and pass city-mandated background checks.


This month, Uber driver Stephanie Franz of Deerfield was cited by Portsmouth police for driving without complying with the city’s registration requirements.

In Somersworth, city officials shelved plans for a teen curfew ordinance.

In Rochester, the overdose death of 17-year-old Eve Tarney once again drew attention to the region’s opioid epidemic.

In North Hampton, the community mourned the sudden death of police officer Pete Cormier, who died of a heart attack.


Municipal elections brought in new city councilors in Portsmouth, Dover, Somersworth, and Rochester.

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services began accepting applications for its medical marijuana program, three years after state legislators legalized medical marijuana.

An agreement between state regulators and three Seacoast communities paved the way for Sea-3 to expand its liquid propane operation in Newington.

In Somersworth, the General Electric plant that has been a fixture of the city’s downtown for 70 years was sold to Aclara Technologies.


A four-alarm fire struck the Portsmouth Gas Light Co. on Dec. 9. Throughout the month, businesses in the city have hosted fundraisers for Gas Light employees who were out of work.

In Dover, long-time school board member Doris Grady retired. In Exeter, school officials announced that dances at the high school would be canceled indefinitely due to concerns about inappropriate student behavior.